NI parkruns: Stormont

It’s not often you get the chance to attend an inaugural parkrun event, so I was very happy to get the opportunity to go along to the beautiful Stormont estate for their first run.

I’ve worked in a couple of the buildings in this estate during my career, so I’m sort of familiar with some of the trails, though they do look a little different when you’re running with 200 others!

The first of the opening-day hiccups occurred when I arrived at the gates of the car-park by the Mo Mowlam playground, the car park suggested by the parkrun homepage, to find they were locked! No matter, the hotel across the road has a huge carpark, and I was easily able to get a space there, and get sorted with Minnie’s belt and gear. It’s a very busy road, so do use the pedestrian crossing lights to cross safely.

Yes, yes, Norn Irn is a very small place, and yes we do all know each other. This week I bumped into:

    an old colleague from my Forest Service days
    someone who’d seen me at Waterworks and is a fan of this ‘ere blog
    a fellow Waggy Racer in a Team Minnie vest
    a Weimaraner I’d met at Victoria


The course starts half-way up the very imposing Prince of Wales Avenue, and thankfully begins by going DOWN the hill. I’ve done a couple of 10ks and the like in this venue, which involved running UP the hill, and that is seriously tiring. The avenue is also nice and wide, so the start is very good for allowing the elite pack to get away without any hemming in. At the front gates, it’s a right turn to make a small loop on gravel paths through the trees.

There’s one short hill with a 90 degree turn at the top which could be tricky for buggies and wheelchairs, and as the loop finishes along the same path where it started, there’s a short section with runners going in 2 directions. Cross the Avenue, the course follows the good tarmac path along the side of the playground, and then turns on to gravel paths again round the back of the tennis courts.


Through some lovely wooded areas, and back onto the main Avenue. Repeat. The finish line is down by the main gate, and that final stretch is deceptive – I started into my sprint as I turned onto the avenue, and found myself thinking Where is that line???? Answer – it’s about 400m away!
I’m not sure why the pre-run brief took place at the finish line, entailing a 7 minute walk up to the start, maybe that will change.

Post run:

There’s no real shelter or access to kitchens here, so scanning just takes place outdoors. Could be an issue on cold and rainy days. Another first day hiccup was that there didn’t appear to be anyone on hand with a pen and paper to record the numbers of barcodes that weren’t scanning properly, leading to long queues. I’d been hoping for treats like a sweet (or a bacon buttie like Bangor had at their inaugural do!), but instead I had my chilled Starbucks latte and an apricot/ almond ball* in the car park while Minnie had a couple of bowls of water. Dogs don’t need any special carb-loading for running, but they DO need to be properly hydrated, so I always make sure I have lots of water bottles with me.

* Recipe: 100g dried apricots, 100g roasted almonds, zest of one lemon, pinch of sea salt, and a drizzle of agave nectar or honey. Blitz in a food processor, roll into walnut sized balls, keep in the fridge.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I’m in training for a half-marathon in a couple of weeks, and a lot of running is in your head. One of my motivational tunes is Foo Fighters “Best of You”.


I’ve been having problems with my toes, specifically those right beside the big one, which seem to be getting squished and numb during long runs. I’ve found that compression socks exacerbate this problem so today I went for ankle socks. I’ve also been getting too warm on parkruns, so I chose the sleeveless Jog Lisburn top, and a skort, and was happy with that. I didn’t see a box for putting car-keys in, so I tucked mine inside my trusty sweat-wristband.

I always recommend taking it easy the first time you visit a new run – that way you can go back later and clip a few seconds off for a PB! That’s my excuse anyway – 28 something put me 2nd in my age-category.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.